The computer and the Internet is probably the greatest tool that people rely on in the modern world today. However, they are the most unrestricted form of technology. Identity theft, stealing, fraud, and plagiarizing can now be done electronically and anonymously. There are people in the world that intend to hurt others through the computer. As such, it is important to not only understand a code of ethics to prevent harming yourself and others, but to also develop methods to protect yourself.
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Code of Ethics
It is always important that when operating a computer that one does not harm other people. Unethical decisions in the use of the computer are as varying and harmful as acts committed directly against other people. The internet is very vast, and it does contain information and data, but it also provides dangers. There are as many dangerous activities through the internet as outside the computer and then some. Viruses, hacking, committing fraud, plagiarizing can all be done through a computer. Therefore, a code of honor should be established for anyone wishing to use the computer.
Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics. The Computer Ethics Institute created the “Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics”.
1. “Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people.”
2. “Thou shalt not interfere with other people’s computer work.”
3. “Thou shalt not snoop around in other people’s computer files.”
4. “Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.”
5. “Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness.”
6. “Thou shalt not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid.”
7. “Thou shalt not use other people’s computer resources without authorization or proper compensation.”
8. “Thou shalt not appropriate other people’s intellectual output.”
9. “Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing.”
10. “Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that insure consideration and respect for your fellow humans.” (Lee)
Personal Care. A computer is personal property to the owner, and he or she may do as they wish with the computer. However, a computer is the same as any property such as a house or a car. It is important to take care of the computer so that it operates safely as long as possible. This means to avoid any behaviors that would harm the computer or that will harm you. An example is giving personal information to sites that should not be trusted and could result in identity theft. Maintain an anti-virus software program to prevent virus attacks and always maintain and update the Computer. If a computer was a car, the same rule applies. A car should regularly be checked and sent for a tune-up.
Respect Property. As always, it is important to take care of your computer. However, it is just as important to respect and properly use other computers. The same old rule applies; treat other’s property as you want your property to be treated. There are several risky behaviors on the computer that can harm it, and should be avoided on another person’s computer. As a general rule, treat another computer better than your own. Not only does this apply to a friend’s personal computer, but also to the computers at school or at the library that provide public access. Remember that access to these computers is a privilege and should be respected.
There are several important behaviors to observe when operating a different computer than your own. First, never operate a computer without permission. There may be special circumstances that you may be unaware. Second, always take good care of the equipment; the keyboard, the mouse, CD’s, and hard drive itself. Finally, never download material or do anything potentially harmful to the computer. An illegal act could cause trouble for the owner or harm the computer and information it contains.
Intellectual property is any creation of the mind. Certain property is protected under Copyright Law, such as:
Works of art or literature
Films or television programs
Trademarks and names
The Internet and Intellectual Property. As mentioned several times, the Internet is a source of a vast amount of information. The Internet is not a library or book, the Internet is “for the most part unmanaged, unedited, unsupervised; anyone can post information on Internet for all to see.” (Emmans) Information or creative works are not limited to copyright protected companies or organizations. Anyone can place information or creative work on the Internet. There are no physical boundaries to protect against the infringement of copyright. With free access to the Internet, any user may steal information anonymously and claim it as their own and this makes Intellectual Property almost unenforceable on the Internet.
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Protecting Against Plagiarism. Fortunately, there are tools available on the Internet to ensure users that they properly give credit to the information on the Internet. First, many sites available assist students in creating the proper citations for their sources. Good examples of these include Easybib and Citationmachine. These sites allow the user to enter the information of the source that they used, from either the Internet or elsewhere, and the device creates the proper citation. Jus the same, there are websites available to check the authenticity of a source of information, either a website or another type of information. An example is Turnitin.com, which allows teachers to analyze students work for plagiarized information. Other sites can be used to find if other website is credible or not. Finally, databases are an excellent tool for student or researchers. Databases contain well-documented articles from professional journals to even whole books, while also providing the source information. Any student should take advantage of the tools available on the Internet to properly cite information and to find real sites.
Placing Information on the Internet. When placing items on the Internet always make sure that the source of the information or media is cited. Also, when running a website, always include information to the ownership of the site and when it was updated. In this way, people can cite your website if they wish. Also, when maintaining a website, update regularly and maintain the site constantly. A website that has not been updated in years or does not have the proper links does not appear to be a good website.
Free Speech. In American, everyone has a right to free speech, but where does this cross the line on the Internet? While people have a freedom of speech, there are limits in the physical world. For example, a person cannot slander or falsify against someone that will harm them. For example, claiming that a political opponent stole money from the treasury when this is not true is illegal. However, in the realm of the Internet, where there are no boundaries or enforcement, anything that can be said is said without punishment.
The Internet is an excellent source of information, but as said before, websites should be evaluated before they are considered trustworthy or capable. An excellent example is Wikipedia, a free-access reference site. The site is well maintained and there is plenty of information with credible sources. However, anyone can edit a page on Wikipedia, and some of the facts may be false if not blatantly. In addition, on the Internet, there is a large amount of media, music, videos and images, even derogatory images and videos. Given that there is free-access, children may accidentally find these inappropriate images from innocent searches.
Schools and Libraries. Schools and Libraries can help protect students and children from unrestricted access to the Internet. School and Library servers can now be fitted with restrictions that will block harmful or inappropriate websites. For students, this is very helpful in keeping them from exploring harmful sites while still having access to find information. In Libraries, it is important to protect the computers and restrictions on the internet help in this task, since many people come and go on the computers. (Emmans)
Parental Control. Still the best protection for children is parental oversight. Children should not operate the computer or navigate the Internet themselves. This should also be applied to teenagers. Cindy Emman writes, “A minor walking into a store to try to buy pornography can be stopped; a minor logging into the Internet can easily pose as an adult no one is the wiser.” Parents should monitor teen’s use of the computer and teach their children proper use of the internet. (Emmans)
There are many concerns for the use of the computers. There are many harms that are created by others and there are harms created by the operator. Fortunately, there are methods developing to defend against harmful viruses, internet theft, and plagiarizing. The key for the prosperity of the computer is that each owner of the computer exhibits proper behavior, and anyone can turn to the Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics as a guide. Remember; never do anything that would harm another.
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